Iraq PM fires local security officials over attack
FALLUJAH, Iraq - Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki fired two senior security officials in the western Anbar province after militants disguised as police killed at least 27 members of the security forces on Monday, officials said.
The brazen attack in Anbar, once the country’s most violent province, raised concern that Iraq’s branch of al Qaeda may regain a foothold there after U.S troops withdrew last December.
Militants in the uniforms and vehicles of special police units sped from checkpoint to checkpoint in and around the town of Haditha in the early hours of Monday, executing police who were standing guard. Two officers were dragged out of their homes and killed.
Maliki approved the dismissals of the provincial police chief and the army’s head of the operation centre in Anbar, according to Mohmmed Fathi, spokesman for the governor of Anbar province, and Mizhir Hassan al-Mulla, a member of the security committee in the Anbar provincial council.
The prime minister is keen to show that his forces have a grip on security ahead of an Arab summit later this month.
Al Qaeda and other Sunni militant groups oppose the Shi’ite-led government in Baghdad and say they will continue to fight despite the withdrawal of U.S. troops last year. They have particularly targeted security forces.
“The provincial council had a meeting in which they raised a recommendation to (Maliki) to fire the Anbar police chief after the Haditha incident and other security breaches that happened before. The prime minister has approved the dismissal,” Mulla said on Tuesday.
However, the police chief, Major General Hadi Razij, would stay in his position until a replacement was found, he said.
Maliki also approved the council’s request to dismiss the army’s provincial operations centre chief, Lieutenant General Abdul-Aziz al-Ubaidi, according to Fathi.
Once an al Qaeda stronghold and Iraq’s most violent province in 2004-2006, Anbar was subdued by 2007 when tribal leaders and former insurgents joined sides with U.S. forces and turned against the militants.
However, there has been a re-emergence of high-profile attacks in the province. In January, 10 people were killed when gunmen wearing explosive belts stormed a police building in the provincial capital Ramadi.